At Last, Bush Appears At Boy Scout Jamboree

Scouts reach for a water bottle while waiting for President Bush. Some had worried that he wouldn't make it.
Scouts reach for a water bottle while waiting for President Bush. Some had worried that he wouldn't make it. (By Rich Lipski -- The Washington Post)
By Karin Brulliard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 1, 2005

FORT A.P. HILL, Va., July 31 -- Thirty-two thousand Boy Scouts and thousands of visitors cheered wildly and brandished U.S. flags as President Bush appeared Sunday at the National Scout Jamboree, bringing a buoyant end to the turbulent first week of a camp-out that began in tragedy.

In a brief speech to a sea of excited khaki- and olive-clad boys spread over a vast field at the Army base here, Bush urged the Scouts to continue serving their country and offered his condolences to the families of four Alaska Scout leaders electrocuted last Monday while setting up a dining tent.

"The men you lost were models of citizenship, leaders who stepped forward to serve a good and selfless cause," he said.

"You Scouts honor them by living up to the ideals of the Scouting they served," the president added.

As Bush took the stage beneath a massive Boy Scouts emblem, Scouts leapt up and erupted in applause. They were beyond ready to hear from the president, who, by virtue of his job, is the honorary president of the nation's Boy Scouts and whose visit had been postponed twice.

After the cheers and chants of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" died down, Bush praised the Scouts for their community service, singling out troops from Louisiana who collected five tons of food for food banks and Scouts from Nebraska who made flags for soldiers in Iraq.

"I thank the Boy Scouts for serving on the front line of America's armies of compassion," Bush said.

Scout officials said 75,000 Scouts and others attended the event.

Afterward, Daniel Bartell, 17, an Eagle Scout from New Albany, Ind., called Bush's visit a "great honor" and "the greatest thing that has ever happened."

In a brief interview, the youth said he pressed forward when Bush approached the audience after the speech. Although he just missed getting to shake hands with the president, he said, he did get to snap a picture.

Andrew Foust, 16, who came for the day with Troop 40 from York, Pa., said it was "awesome that the president recognizes all of the hard work, dedication and commitment that the Scouts have for our country."

Bush was scheduled to speak at the jamboree's opening show Wednesday. Inclement weather prompted him to cancel shortly before, and Scout officials called off the show. More than 300 Scouts and others who had waited for hours in sweltering heat in the arena suffered heat exhaustion, and more than 40 were taken to hospitals.

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